Programming Practices of Atlantic Coast Conference Wind Ensembles

By Wiltshire, Eric S.; Paul, Timothy A. et al. | Contributions to Music Education, July 1, 2010 | Go to article overview

Programming Practices of Atlantic Coast Conference Wind Ensembles


Wiltshire, Eric S., Paul, Timothy A., Paul, Phyllis M., Rudnicki, Erika, Contributions to Music Education


This study examined the programming trends of the elite wind bands/ensembles of the Atlantic Coast Conference universities. Using survey techniques previously employed by Powell (2009) and Paul (2010; in press), we contacted the directors of the Atlantic Coast Conference band programs and requested concert programs from their top groups for the time period beginning fall 2002 and ending spring 2009. We then entered 1,210 performances of individual pieces into a database. With 15 performances each, Irish Tune from County Derry and Lincolnshire Posy (both by Percy Grainger) were the most programmed works. Percy Grainger was the most frequently programmed composer, with 75 performances of 23 individual compositions. Of the 705 unique pieces, 75.7% were original band works. Eleven new compositions were premiered during the study period.

Considerable effort has gone into identifying and establishing a core repertoire for wind bands. The questions most persistently asked by directors of bands and wind ensembles seem to focus on programming and classification of quality literature. To date, research has focused on three specific areas: establishing that repertoire development is important, determining criteria for measuring artistic value, and studying the frequency of performance.

In 1938, Richard Franko Goldman observed that "serious music in band repertoire is considerably outweighed by light music" (Goldman, 1938, p. 12). Goldman went on to suggest that bands would never find their "true voice" if composers were not encouraged to write for the medium. Eight years later, William D. Revelli called upon college and university bands to persuade composers to create masterworks for the wind band (Revelli, 1946). However, Frederick Fennell's 1952 invitation to composers to write for the newly-formed Eastman Wind Ensemble may have been the greatest catalyst in the creation of an original repertoire for wind bands.

Rather quickly, the focus changed from searching for new music to searching for new works of high artistic quality. The first studies in this area looked at programming trends. Odegard (1955) examined the performance frequency of college band repertoire. Peercy (1958) surveyed over 100 university band concert programs and compiled a list of the 75 most frequently performed compositions between 1950 and 1957. In 1973, H. Robert Reynolds suggested that the way to identify works of high quality was by closely watching programming practices to find those pieces that have "withstood the test of time" and been given frequent performances.

Acton Ostling (1978) established a set often criteria for determining the artistic merit of a composition. These criteria focused on the areas of craftsmanship, sensitivity, and originality. A panel of 20 band directors, chosen by nomination from the 312 wind band conductors listed in the College Music Society directory, used the criteria to evaluate over 1,500 pieces. The resulting list of 314 compositions included many pieces that continue to be considered masterworks (e.g., Lincolnshire Posy by Percy Grainer), as well as a few that are no longer frequently performed (e.g., March with Trumpets by William Bergsma).

Using the same criteria, Gilbert (1993) evaluated 1,158 pieces and identified 191 compositions that met the standards of artistic merit as established in the aforementioned study. Comparing Gilbert's results to Ostling's (1978) demonstrates how difficult this type of assessment is. One hundred fifty-two pieces identified by Ostling as having artistic merit were not reselected in the Gilbert study. In addition, 21 pieces that did not make Ostling's list were included in the Gilbert replication. Thomas (1998) and Rhea (1999) undertook similar studies with focus on high school level repertoire.

Earlier investigations of programming trends also failed to reveal a core repertoire. In an attempt to identify specific works played by college and university groups from 1980-1985, Fiese (1987) created a "Frequency of Performance Report Form" which was mailed to 930 directors. …

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